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Prosthetic leg can't keep jumper down

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Prosthetic leg can't keep jumper down

High School Sports

Prosthetic leg can't keep jumper down - Skyline's Skiba soars 6-10, wins 3A state title

By Danny O'Neil

Seattle Times staff reporter

TACOMA — First, Jeff Skiba flew in the high jump.

Then he flipped.

The Skyline High School senior, whose left leg was amputated below the knee when he was a 1-year-old, cleared 6 feet 10 in the high jump yesterday and followed it with a backflip on the high-jump pad.

"He does it in practice all the time, but I never imagined he would do it here," said Terry Kirkpatrick, Skyline's high-jump coach.

He meant the celebration, not the height of the jump that won the Class 3A boys state title at Lincoln Bowl. A fist pump was the biggest expression Kirkpatrick had seen from Skiba until yesterday.

But Skiba skidded over 6-10, grazing the bar so that it wobbled but stayed on its mount. It was Skiba's best mark at a high-school meet, and he followed by taking three tries at 7-0-1/2, which would have broken a 23-year-old meet record.

"He's a power jumper, and he's got quite a cannon under him," Kirkpatrick said.

Skiba was born without a left fibula. He wears a skin-colored prosthetic leg and has a sleeve that keeps the leg in place.

He has run 100 meters in 12.4 seconds, long jumped more than 18 feet and at 6-3-1/2, he can dunk a basketball. Actually, he can do more than just dunk, as he has shown with a two-handed alley-oop reverse.

"I see myself just like other kids," Skiba said. "I don't have any things I can't do."

Skiba's victory wasn't unexpected. He placed third at state last year, and has been one of the state's leaders this season. Three weeks ago, he set a Paralympic world record by clearing 2.08 meters (about 6-10) at a meet in Florida.

But he had never cleared 6-10 at a high-school meet until yesterday.

He is unsure what he will do next year, and might choose between training with a coach in Olympia or competing for a college team. He will compete at a Paralympic meet this summer in Paris.

He started competing in track as a sophomore after a suggestion from his science teacher. Skiba sticks to formulas when he talks about the high jump. Asked how he is able to compete in the event and he starts talking about transferring speed into height. Lateral energy translating to horizontal lift.

"He has a very technical mind," said Kirkpatrick, who coached Mary Moore, the state record-holder in the girls high jump. "He knows more about the high jump than me."

Skiba jumps off his right foot even though he's right-handed. Most people jump off the opposite foot.

"But I don't really have a choice," he said.

Skiba can't curl his legs around the bar like most high jumpers. He must actually jump higher and go over the bar with his back perfectly parallel to the ground, his legs above the rest of his body.

"He's doing it all off his leap," said Mark Morris high jumper Mike Hallin, who finished second at 6-6. "I don't know what else you can say about the guy. He's amazing.

"I'm a pretty sore loser myself. I don't like to lose to people, but I'm more than happy to lose to him."

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